The Messenger-Enquirer has come out against Senate Bill 13 (subscription), a bill that would provide rewards for teachers of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses in math and science when students earn high scores on the related tests for those programs.
That editorial opposition makes me wonder if the Messenger’s editors really read and understood the bill and really understand the problem.
First: It’s no secret – across the United States and here in Kentucky – schools are having a hard time finding enough qualified teachers for math and science. That is especially true in high schools, where the subject knowledge required renders potential teaching candidates very competitive for other occupations, many high-paying, that also require this important knowledge.
In fact, over the past several years, Kentucky Senator Ken Winters, who heads the Senate Education Committee, reports that all the education schools in Kentucky combined have graduated only one person each year – just one a year – who is qualified to teach high school physics.
Clearly, the shortage of high school math and science teachers is a serious situation. It is obvious that schools need to be able to offer special inducements to get more teachers in these high skills, but high shortage areas.
Senate Bill 13 was created to address this most critical imbalance problem at a cost we can currently afford.
Certainly, as the Messenger suggests, it would be good to implement merit pay across the board for all teachers along with instituting reforms that insure teachers who don’t provide good performance are removed. However, the state cannot afford to do that, right now.
So, SB-13 institutes a first step, limited program to deal with one of the most serious teaching problems of all. As such, it can provide useful pilot information for the future when Kentucky is in a better position to address all teachers’ performance.
By the way, we already have a track record in this area based on the success of a privately funded pilot program called AdvanceKentucky, which has shown that using similar stipends for performance plus doing other activities dramatically improves AP course performance.
One last note, so far, the Enquirer’s position doesn’t seem to be sitting well with its readership. Both comments on the article as of 1 PM on January 13, 2011 express differing opinions. It seems at least a few readers may have a better handle on this subject than those at the Enquirer do.